Seminar ‘Unlocking biochar technologies in farming systems of Sub-Sahara Africa'

For whom
Students, Employees
23-04-2018 from 11:00 to 12:00
Academische Club, Campus Coupure, Coupure Links 653, 9000 Gent
Pascal Boeckx
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Unlocking biochar technologies in farming systems of sub-Saharan Africa: a unique window for low-carbon futures and sustainable agricultural intensification


Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is recording high rates of deforestation and soil fertility degradation, which gravely contributes to climate change and food insecurity. Loss of forest and soil resources is for a large part ascribed to obsolescent technologies and practices being used for energy generation and agricultural production to date across SSA.

Majority of households in SSA is resorting to wood, charcoal, coal, cow dung and/or crop residues for cooking fuel, hanging on to traditional open-air combustion systems that tare tarnished by low energy efficiency and very high emissions of fine particulates. Next to that, the lack or unreliability of electricity grids is posing huge challenges, especially for energy-intensive and energy-sensitive processes of businesses that therefore often turn to fossil fuel generators.

Agricultural soils in SSA receive awfully low rates of organic inputs, with as little as 10% to maximally 50% of crop residues being returned to soils, which is further aggravated by high decomposition and mineralization in the Tropics. The steady decline of C stocks of forests and soils, as well as the stagnation of crop productivity in SSA over the past decade has to be urgently tackled for securing futures.

This seminar takes a closer look at energy and agricultural applications of biochar technologies in SSA, and their contributions to mitigating climate impacts and sustainably intensifying crop productivity.

On the one hand, an overview will be given on benefits of biomass gasification for wood consumption and emissions, paying particular attention to standardized tests of a two-chamber gasifier cook stove by IITA and partners.

Further to that, outputs will be presented from a study in eastern Uganda on the yield and allometry of -high C- waste biomass from crops in smallholder farms, next to a tool that is being constructed for estimating the rate of soil C sequestration with 'on-farm' biochar feedstocks.

Lastly, different studies from Kenya and Uganda will be showcased that investigated the effects of biochar inputs to soils on crop production. An experiment over 18 growing seasons, which received a large one-time application of biochar at the start, is providing unprecedented information about the longevity of biochar effects on crop yields and soil C stocks.

Pitches will be made about a large number of trials across varying agro-ecologies and growing seasons that identified viable and effective rates of biochar inputs for sustainable intensification of crop productivity and efficiency of inorganic fertilizers.

About the speaker, Dries Roobroeck

Dries Roobroeck is a junior scientist at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), working with the Natural Resource Management Unit in Nairobi, Kenya. He holds a PhD in Applied Biosciences from Ghent University in Belgium and has worked with IITA for the past five years.

His research is focusing on two major themes:

  1. Non-responsiveness of maize and soybean to inorganic fertilizers
  2. Biochar technologies for improving agricultural production and energy generation.

In the course of his work he has been managing different projects in Kenya, DRCongo, Tanzania, Nigeria and Uganda.

Dries specializes in crop-soil-fertilizer interactions, greenhouse gas fluxes and organic resource management.

Dries has authored multiple scientific papers, research briefs and project proposals. Several of the studies that will feature in the seminar are going to be published in 2018.